One dead, six rescued and a dozen missing after boat capsizes off Louisiana coast

(Reuters) – One person has died and six others have been rescued after a commercial “lift boat” used to service oil rigs capsized in hurricane force winds several miles south of Port Fourchon on the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Wednesday.

A dozen people were still missing after the 129-foot commercial vessel capsized in rough seas about 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, officials said.

Two Coast Guard cutters, a military helicopter, airplane and a small fleet of volunteer private vessels were involved in the searched operation, said Coast Guard Captain Will Watson.

“Unfortunately one person was recovered deceased on the surface of the water,” he said, adding that the winds were about 80 miles per hour (129 km per hour) to 90 mph at the time of the accident.

Two people were rescued by the Coast Guard and four others were pulled from the waters by people on other vessels, he said.

“My heart and the collective hearts of our team goes out to the families,” Watson said, adding that they are working to find other survivors.

The high winds, with some hail and flooding are expected to continue in southeastern Louisiana, according to the National Weather Service. There is a threat of severe weather to overnight in the region and a flash flood watch is in effect till Thursday morning.

The vessel is owned by Seacor Marine, a Houston, Texas-based transportation company, according to media reports.

A representative for the company was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Additional reporting and writing by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by William Maclean and Mike Harrison)

Hawaii declares emergency due to floods, orders evacuations

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – Hawaii Governor David Ige declared an emergency in the U.S. state after heavy rains brought floods, landslides and fear of dam failures, and authorities ordered the evacuation of several thousand people from communities threatened by rising waters.

The move came after a dam overflowed on the island of Maui, forcing evacuations and destroying homes, with the dam’s “unsatisfactory” condition leading to it being scheduled for removal this year, the land department has said.

“The emergency proclamation makes state general funds available that can be used quickly and efficiently to help those impacted by the severe weather,” Ige said on Tuesday.

Poor weather was expected to run until Friday, he added, and flood advisories stayed in place for a second day

The emergency declaration covers the counties of Hawai’i, Maui, Kalawao, O’ahu and Kaua’i, the governor’s office said in a statement, while the disaster relief period runs until May 8.

The Honolulu Department of Emergency Management directed people to leave Haleiwa, a community of a few thousand people to the north of state capital Honolulu.

Hawaii News Now reported that two people were swept away in raging waters on Tuesday. One of them, a 27-year-old man, was rescued by authorities. A search for the other would resume on Wednesday, according to the report.

There were no other immediate reports of injuries or casualties.

In Maui, heavy rains damaged roads, leaving them impassable, with one bridge completely washed out and another displaced, the governor’s office said.

State emergency management officials had said the rains led to the cresting of the Kaupakalua dam in the northern region of Haiku, prompting authorities to open evacuation shelters and urge people not to return home.

Six homes were heavily damaged or destroyed, said Maui mayor Michael Victorino.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Clarence Fernandez & Simon Cameron-Moore)

Japan faces ‘frequent’ disasters as flood toll reaches 200

Rescue workers search for missing people at a landslide site caused by heavy rain in Kumano Town, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Issei Kato

KURASHIKI, Japan (Reuters) – Japan risks more severe weather and must find ways to alleviate disasters, a government spokesman said on Thursday, as intense heat and water shortages raised fear of disease among survivors of last week’s floods and landslides.

Torrential rain in western Japan caused the country’s worst weather disaster in 36 years, killing 200 people, many in communities that have existed for decades on mountain slopes and flood plains largely untroubled by storms.

Rescue workers and Japan Self-Defense Forces soldiers search for missing people at a landslide site caused by heavy rain in Kumano Town, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Rescue workers and Japan Self-Defense Forces soldiers search for missing people at a landslide site caused by heavy rain in Kumano Town, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

But severe weather has been battering the country more regularly in recent years, raising questions about the impact of global warming. Dozens of people were killed in a similar disaster last year.

“It’s an undeniable fact that this sort of disaster due to torrential, unprecedented rain is becoming more frequent in recent years,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo.

Saving lives was the government’s biggest duty, he said.

“We recognize that there’s a need to look into steps we can take to reduce the damage from disasters like this even a little bit,” he said.

He did not elaborate on what steps the government could take.

More than 200,000 households had no water a week after disaster struck and many thousands of people were homeless.

With temperatures ranging from 31 to 34 Celsius (86 to 93 Fahrenheit) and high humidity, life in school gymnasiums and other evacuation centers, where families spread out on mats on the floors, began to take a toll.

Television footage showed one elderly woman trying to sleep by kneeling across a folding chair, arms over her eyes to keep out the light.

With few portable fans in evacuation centers, many survivors waved paper fans to keep cool.

Tight water supplies meant that people were not getting enough fluids, authorities said.

“Without water, we can’t really clean anything up. We can’t wash anything,” one man told NHK television.

Local residents try to clear debris at a flood affected area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 12, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Local residents try to clear debris at a flood affected area in Mabi town in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, July 12, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

The government has sent out water trucks but supplies remain limited.

In the hard-hit Mabi district of Kurashiki city in Okayama prefecture, piles of water-damaged refrigerators, washing machines and furniture lined the streets as residents used hoses to wash mud out of their homes.

Unable to join in the strenuous work Hisako Takeuchi, 73, and her husband, spent the past five nights at an elementary school that had been turned into a make-shift evacuation center.

“We only have each other and no relatives nearby. We aren’t able to move large things and we desperately need volunteer helpers,” said Takeuchi.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on a visit to Kurashiki on Thursday, promised to provide help as soon as possible. He is set to visit two other hard-hit areas on Friday and the weekend.

More than 70,000 military, police and firefighters toiled through the debris in a search for bodies.

Teams used diggers and chainsaws to clear landslides and cut away wreckage of buildings and trees. Many areas were buried deep in mud that smelled like sewage and had hardened in the heat.

(Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Darren Schuettler, Robert Birsel)

Two people killed in Louisiana mobile home hit by tornado

A trailer home where two people were killed after a possible tornado, is damaged in Breaux Bridge, St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, U.S.,

By Letitia Stein and Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – A tornado flipped over a mobile home in south-central Louisiana on Sunday, killing a toddler and her mother, as forecasters warned of a dangerous weather system bringing twisters, fierce straight-line winds and hail to the Gulf Coast region.

Neville Alexander, 3, and Francine Gotch, 38, were inside the mobile home in the town of Breaux Bridge, just outside Lafayette, Louisiana, when the storm slammed into the dwelling, causing “significant damage,” the St. Martin Sheriff’s Office said on its Facebook page.

Video posted on the page showed the remnants of a mobile home with its walls and roof collapsed and furniture and other household belongings upended and scattered. Nearby houses and vehicles appeared unscathed.

The National Weather Service (NWS) later confirmed the demolished trailer was upended by a tornado packing winds of around 100 miles per hour (161 kph) and ranked as a category EF-1 on the five-point Enhanced Fujita Scale. An EF-5 is the highest rating.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the Weather Service had issued a “high risk” advisory for central and northern Louisiana, warning residents to be vigilant of the threat of severe weather.

Other parts of Louisiana were under “moderate and enhanced” alerts for severe weather, he said, adding, “This is a statewide weather event.”

In addition to tornado threats, thunderstorms were bringing hurricane-force, straight-line winds and large hail to the region, the governor said.

Television station WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge, the state capital, reported more than 4,500 lightning strikes across the state by late afternoon.

Edwards called for members of the public to remain indoors and avoid unnecessary travel, while urging mobile homes residents to stay with friends or relatives in more solid structures overnight if possible.

The NWS posted tornado watches for a portion of eastern Texas and most of the two neighboring Gulf states of Louisiana and Mississippi. A flash-flood warning was in effect for a large swath of east Texas and Louisiana.

Tornado sightings were reported in central Texas and north-central Louisiana, while high winds were snapping trees and causing other damage, the NWS reported.

The brunt of the storm system, also a concern for southern Arkansas, was expected to track eastward into Mississippi after dark, and possibly into Alabama on Monday morning.

The warnings come after severe weather killed at least 21 people in the South earlier this year, many in mobile homes demolished by tornadoes in Georgia and Mississippi.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida, and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by McGurty in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Sandra Maler)

Southern U.S. flooding causes closure of major highway

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – Flooding caused by days of heavy rain forced the closure on Tuesday of a section of a major east-west U.S. highway on the Louisiana-Texas border along the rising Sabine River, officials in both states said.

At least five people have been killed in storms in Southern U.S. states over the past several days that have caused flooding in places including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, forcing thousands of people to flee homes caught in floodwaters.

The closure of the section of Interstate 10 was forcing drivers to take lengthy detours of up to hundreds of miles to traverse the flood-soaked region.

Flooding along the Sabine River that separates Texas and Louisiana has forced the evacuation of hundreds of people from their homes. Texas Governor Greg Abbott late on Monday issued a disaster declaration for 17 eastern and southeastern Texas counties.

In Louisiana, state officials said more than 6,000 structures had been damaged by flooding across the state, and new problems were being reported in some areas as rivers continued to rise.

Since last Wednesday, the Louisiana National Guard has rescued more than 4,200 people while the state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has rescued another 700 people.

The hardest-hit parts of Texas have been in the southeastern part of the state, where “dozens if not hundreds” of high water rescues have taken place, according to Emergency Management Coordinator Billy Smith.

“It will probably be several days before it crests,” Smith said of the floodwaters, adding that the Sabine River is expected to crest at a level higher that the previous record set in 1882.

In eastern Harrison County in Texas, sheriff’s office Lieutenant Jay Webb said the high waters have raised worries about alligators.

“The nature of alligators is they don’t want to stay in water,” Webb said. “They want to be on higher ground with access to water. With flood levels porch-high, those alligators may be on somebody’s back porch.”

Authorities described the flooding as some of the worst in the region apart from that spawned by hurricanes. President Barack Obama on Sunday declared the flooding in Louisiana a major disaster, activating federal aid.

(Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins in North Carolina; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Will Dunham)

Five dead in storms in U.S. South as floods continue

SHREVEPORT, La. (Reuters) – The death toll from storms in Southern U.S. states rose to five as storm-weary residents of Louisiana and Mississippi watched for more flooding on Monday from drenching rains that inundated homes, washed out roads and prompted thousands of rescues.

Flood waters across Louisiana were blamed for four deaths and damage to at least 5,000 homes, and one person drowned in a flooded area in Oklahoma last week. Flood warnings were in effect as rivers, bayous and creeks stayed high after storms dumped more than 20 inches of rain in some places.

In Louisiana, Harold Worsham, 78, drowned in Saline Bayou when his boat capsized as he tried to remove items from a home as waters rose on Saturday night, according to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Many rivers and lakes in northern Louisiana have risen to historic levels and homes there face the threat of yet more flooding, said Matt Hemingway, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Shreveport.

“It’s going to take some time for them to fall back down below flood stage,” he said. “Some folks may be in this situation not just days but weeks.”

Authorities and meteorologists described the flooding as some of the worst seen in the region apart from that spawned by hurricanes. President Barack Obama declared flooding in Louisiana a major disaster on Sunday, activating federal aid.

The Louisiana National Guard said it had rescued more than 3,000 people and 300 pets.

Weldon Thomas, who lives in the Lake Bistineau area, said the flood was devastating for many of his neighbors.

“This is the worst flood that these people have ever seen, and some of them have been there 60 or 70 years,” he said. “It’s a tragic situation for everybody.”

In Bossier Parish, several feet of water covered low parts of normally busy Highway 71 and water rose to the top of road signs. Stranded livestock huddled on patches of dry land.

Emergency officials in Mississippi said flooding threatened to close interstates 59 and 10, which they warned could result in major traffic congestion.

As of Sunday afternoon, 185 homes were destroyed or significantly damaged in Mississippi and about 650 more sustained minor damage, according to the state.

Mandatory evacuation orders issued by authorities in the Texas county of Newton, which borders Louisiana, remained in effect for people living near the Sabine River over flood dangers.

(Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins and Curtis Skinner; Editing by Dan Grebler and James Dalgleish)

Heavy rains spur flash flooding in South, more rain on the way

Portions of three states were under flash flood warnings on Wednesday afternoon as a slow-moving storm brought more heavy rain and damage to the already-waterlogged South.

The National Weather Service issued the warnings for select counties in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, indicating that flash flooding was already occurring in those regions.

The service also issued flash flood watches for other counties in those three states and portions of six others — Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Mississippi — cautioning that the inches of additional rain in the forecast could spur rapidly rising waters later this week.

The National Weather Service said Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas are still expected to see the worst of the storms, and could receive more than eight inches of additional rain by week’s end.

The service said each of those three states had at least one community where more than five inches of rain fell between Monday and Wednesday morning. That included more than one foot near Minden, Louisiana, which is located about 35 miles east of Bossier City in Webster Parish.

The Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office shared numerous photographs of flooding on its Facebook page, including a stretch of Interstate 20 that had been completely submerged. Another photo showed a stretch of Methodist Camp Road, which runs through Minden, had been washed out.

In Bossier Parish, authorities were calling for a voluntary evacuation in some flood-prone areas as waters of the Red Chute Bayou and Flat River continued to rise, according to a news release.

The severe weather prompted government offices in Webster, Bossier and four other Northern Louisiana parishes to close early on Wednesday, the state’s commissioner of administration said in a news release. Grambling State University and Louisiana Tech also cancelled classes.

The other areas in the flash flood watches were expected to see less rainfall, but multiple inches were possible. Residents of all of the affected states should monitor their local forecasts.

Tornado reported, flash flood watches expanded as severe weather targets South

Portions of the Southern Plains on Tuesday morning were beginning to feel the force of the thunderstorms and flash flooding that is expected to hit the region over the next few days.

National Weather Service radar showed rain falling across Texas and Oklahoma, the beginning of a series of thunderstorms forecast to bring up to 10 inches of rain to the South by Thursday.

The service said the thunderstorms could also generate tornadoes, and its Storm Prediction Center had already received one report of a funnel cloud in Texas by 10 a.m. Central Time.

A tornado watch was in effect for 31 counties in Texas. It was set to expire at 1 p.m. today.

Other counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area were under warnings and watches for severe thunderstorms, and the service advised high wind gusts and penny-sized hail were possible.

The National Weather Service also expanded its flash flood watches to larger parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, warning waters could rise quickly in those areas. The highest rainfall totals are still expected in East Texas, Western Louisiana and Southwest Arkansas, but updated forecasts show parts of Missouri and Oklahoma could receive 4 inches.

Many of the flash flood watches are slated to begin this afternoon and continue through Thursday, though residents of the affected areas should monitor their local forecasts.

The service’s Storm Prediction Center said communities in South Texas, as well as those along the state’s Gulf Coast, had the highest risk of experiencing severe thunderstorms today. It said there was an “enhanced” risk of the storms in those areas, the middle level on a five-tier system.

But the tornado was reported in Tolar, which is located about 80 miles southwest of Dallas.

The Storm Prediction Center had received at least 10 reports of high winds as of 10 a.m. Central Time, all in North Texas. The reports indicated that gusts of up to 70 mph were recorded in Tarrant County, where a roof was blown off a business and large branches fell on a sidewalk.

Utility company Oncor said about 36,000 of its customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area were without power as of 10 a.m. Tuesday. And flight monitoring website flightaware.com said some 230 flights to or from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport had been delayed by that time.